If you are a Nigerian, and you are passionate about football, the following matches will remain as wounds that have refused to heal in your hearts. Much as you try to forget, they always come back, bringing pain and sorrow. You wished something had happened to reverse the final scores.
Let’s relieve ten of such matches:
- 1977- Nigeria vs Tunisia
It was a qualifier for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. The Super Eagles only needed a draw in that match to feature at the 1978 Mundial for the first time ever.
Nigeria was very close until Godwin Odiye scored an own-goal from a header, just as the match was rounding off to send shock, silence and pain to fans at the National Stadium, Surulere Lagos, and the country as a whole
- 1994- Nigeria vs Italy
In 1994, Nigeria qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first- time ever. Months before that tournament, the Super Eagles had won the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia.
At the Mundial in USA, Nigeria was one of the favourites and had started the competition convincingly, beating Bulgaria and Greece, qualifying for the round of 16.
Despite coming against the highly-rated Italians, Nigeria scored first, courtesy Emmanuel Amuneke. It remains very difficult to explain how the Super Eagles could not hold on for just two minutes, conceding the equaliser from Roberto Baggio and going on to lose at extra time.
- 1998- Nigeria vs Denmark
In 1996, Nigeria Dream Team won the Olympic Gold medal, beating Brazil and Argentina in that triumphant journey. Two years later, Nigeria Super Eagles featured at the FIFA World Cup in France.
Nigeria again qualified for the second round and had a date with Denmark. Nigerians wanted to win that match badly to set up a rematch against Brazil, at the quarter-finals, a repeat of what happened at Atlanta ‘96
That never happened as Denmark scored three quick goals in the first half and added another in the second half before Tijjani Babangida got a consolation goal for Nigeria.
Mercurial midfielder Austin Okocha wept after the match, signifying the pains Nigerians went through
- 2000 – Nigeria vs Cameroon
Nigeria co-hosted the Africa Cup of Nations with Ghana at the beginning of the new millennium. The Super Eagles made it all the way to the final, meeting Cameroon at the National Stadium, Surulere Lagos
The Indomitable Lions led 2-0 at the first half, and somehow, Nigeria fought back, equalising 2-2. It looked like Nigeria would carry the day until where the Super Eagles lost 4-3 via penalties.
- 2002 – Nigeria vs Senegal
At the semi-finals of the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria met Senegal. The Super Eagles had two years earlier shocked Senegal, coming from behind to beat them 2-1 in Lagos. Nigerians remain grateful to Julius Aghahowa for saving the day.
In Bamako Mali, both sides met again with Senegal seeking revenge. They got it eventually as they beat Nigeria 2-1, with El-Hadj Diouf scoring what remains a controversial goal, scoring while goalkeeper, Ike Shorunmu was still lacing his boots.
- 2004 – Nigeria vs Tunisia
Nigeria, desperately looking for a third AFCON title was at the semi-finals in 2004 and met hosts Tunisia. Austin Okocha scored first for Nigeria from the penalty spot and it seemed Nigeria was through to another final until Tunisia were also awarded a penalty and they scored.
The match dragged to extra-time and penalties. Tunisia won, advancing to the final and eventually winning the title.
- 2011 – Nigeria vs Guinea
The Super Eagles needed a win to qualify for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, and hosted Guinea at the Abuja National Stadium
The Syli Nationale took a shock lead but Nigeria scored twice, goals from Obinna Nsofor and Ikechukwu Uche to leave the score lines at 2-1
The calamity happened at the last minute of the game, where Ibrahim Traore scored a goal that stopped Nigeria from featuring at AFCON 2012. This brought pain and tears to Nigerians.
- 2014 – Nigeria vs South Africa
Against South Africa in Uyo, the Super Eagles needed a win to qualify at second place. South Africa, prior to the match, had sealed their place at the AFCON.
But the Bafana Bafana went on to score two goals first, to put Nigeria in confusion. The Super Eagles scored back twice but needed a third goal to feature at AFCON 2012.
That goal never came.
- 2018 – Nigeria vs Argentina
Nigeria was present at the 2018 FIFA World Cup but lost the first match and won the second group match. Argentina was the third, and Nigeria only needed to avoid defeat, to qualify for the second round.
Lionel Messi scored first for Argentina but the Super Eagles fought back, scoring an equalizer. Then Odion Ighalo wasted a clear chance that would have given Nigeria the lead. Nigeria then had a penalty appeal turned down.
Four minutes to the end of the match, Marcus Rojo scored a second for Argentina, sending Nigeria out of the World Cup
- 2019 – Nigeria vs Algeria
This remains the most recent heartbreak suffered by Nigerians due to current football inactivity. Nigeria faced Algeria at the semi-finals of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Super Eagles were already eyeing the AFCON trophy.
But Algeria proved too stubborn and scored first. Nigeria equalized, hoping to drag the match to extra-time before Riyad Mahrez scored from a free-kick, the last kick of the game, sending Nigeria out of AFCON 2019.